Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Abu Dhabi Championship 2017

The "Desert Swing" kicks off in Abu Dhabi this week with one of the strongest fields we'll see on the Europeantour this season. And that's on the back of Rory McIlroy's withdrawal on Monday following his MRI scan confirming a rib fracture. US Open Champion, Dustin Johnson will head the market ahead of Open Champion, Henrik Stenson and Masters Champion, Danny Willett. They in turn will face strong competition from twice Major Champion and three time winner of this event, Martin Kaymer as well as Rickie Fowler (defending champion), Tyrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Alex Noren, Branden Grace and Rafa Cabrera-Bello not to mention a host of other inform players. DJ rightly heads the betting despite this being his course debut, but his power and current form should see him go close although the "normal" Europeantour events in the past haven't produced favourable results for him to date.

The Course

Abu Dhabi GC is a 7500 yard, Par-72 desert course where birdies can be made if finding the fairways off the tee and will suit strong par-5 performers and big hitters. That said, shorter hitters have done well here also, emphasizing perhaps that accuracy can be rewarded. Recent winners form here also suggest that GIR will be vital so expect those with the recent form and a strong accuracy skillset to contend here this week. Throw in some forecasted wind at the weekend , we should see the tough competitors prevail come Sunday afternoon.

Shortlist & Selections

I did find it tough to settle on a shortlist this week as anyone of a number could win this. We saw Gary Stal defeat Martin Kaymer, somehow, two years ago and we also saw Robert Rock @ 150/1 win as well as Pablo Larrzabal at triple figure odds in 2014. With a number of possibilities in front of us this week I've considered the TOP20 market as possibly the best way to approach it this week although I do have a strong fancy for Branden Grace to do well. He arrives having played the last two weeks in Hawaii, improving significantly last week to finish TOP15. Two TOP5s here in his last 4 visits suggest he likes this course and indeed he tends to perform well in the Middle East having posted 3 TOP10s at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. He ranked 12th last week for GIR at The Sony Open so should be fully warmed up for his third event of the 2017 campaign. The South African can scramble and contend in the wind should it arrive at the weekend and he represents some value to me @ 33/1.

I was also keen on Tyrell Hatton this week who has produced 2 TOP10s in his 3 visits to Abu Dhabi. He probably should have won at the Earth Course last November only to see Matty Fitzpatrick edge him out, but he is the most improved performer on the European Tour over the past twelve months and having broken through to clinch his maiden win at The Alfred Dunhill in October, his goal will be to add more titles in 2017 and he can approach this week in a confident mood knowing he has performed here in the past. Whilst I want to get involved in the TOP20 markets though, I've backed Hatton and Grace in cross doubles with Bill Haas & Ryan Palmer who play in the Career Builder Challenge on the PGA Tour this week.

I'll complete my staking plan for the Abu Dhabi Championship with the aforementioned TOP20 stabs. Peter Hanson showed some return to form in the latter part of 2016, notably finishing 4th at The British Masters.The Swede has form here too having produced 4 TOP10s in his 9 visits. Note two further 11th place finishes, of which one came here last year augurs well for his liking of the course and he can produce something similar again this week @ 4.50. His goal will be to make a third appearance at the Ryder Cup and will be keen to start compiling some points to achieve that.

Johan Carlsson is one of my "10toFollowin2017" players and is a big price this week. Indeed 7 of my 10 players from that list tee it up here and all easily meet the price threshold quite easily. This will be the Swede's 4th visit here where he has produced results of 7-63-16. Carlsson has the length off the tee to perform at Abu Dhabi and if improving on his solid TOP20 performance in 2016 he can strike here @ 10/1(11.00)

Matteo Mannasero is taken for a TOP20 @ 10/1 (11.00) despite mediocre form here in the past. Just one TOP10 in eight visits may not be that encouraging nor indeed back to back missed cuts the past two years, but there is positive signs that the youngster is returning to some form. An accurate player from tee to green, the Italian can thrive on confidence and he's a speculative play here in the TOP20 market but should he get a good start playing alongside Soomin Lee and Andrew Dodt on Thursday he can position himself for a positive opening event of 2017.

1.0 pt B.Grace WIN @ 34.00

2.50 pts P.Hanson TOP20 @ 4.50
1.75 pts J.Carlsson TOP20 @ 11.00
1.75 pts M. Mannasero TOP20 @11.00

Monday, 9 January 2017

BMW South African Open 2017

Europeantour action returns this week and its off to Glendower Golf Club for the BMW South African Open where Rory McIlroy heads the field. The Northern Irishman will start his 2017 campaign here by returning a favour to Ernie Els who hosts the event, having had the South African in attendance at Royal County Down two years ago for the Irish Open. He will be joined by the three previous winners here at Glendower in Brandon Stone, Andy Sullivan and Morten Madsen. Rory will also be competing for the first time with new clubs. Callaway woods and irons, Titleist Prov1x balls and an Odyssey putter have been reported as clubs of choice for the week. How he fares with them will be intriguing as will his competitiveness @ 3/1 to prevail here.

The event has been saddened by the news of twice winner, Wayne Westner's passing last week. Westner who spent a considerate amount of time living and coaching in Celbridge, Co. Kildare Ireland, was 55.

The Course

Glendower GC lies in Johannesburg, was opened in 1937 and underwent course re-design in the 1980s. It is a very old traditional course where accuracy will be key. Local boy, Thomas Aiken normally excels in the accuracy department from tee to green and should be in with a chance this week again, especially given that he has three TOP5s in his last four South African Opens as well as four TOP10s at the Joburg Open from his last five visits. I've pursued Thomas long enough over the years and although another TOP5 last month at The Alfred Dunhill augurs well, he is omitted from the staking plan this week where 25/1 is best price. South Africans in general tend to do well on these co-sanctioned events so expect to see them on the leaderboard throughout as many will have course experience over the years.

My Shortlist and Selections

Trevor Fisher Jnr heads my staking plan this week @ 80/1 on the back of solid Glendower form. (8-15-7). His one and only European Tour win came at The Africa Open in 2015 to back up his eight Sunshine Tour wins. A player that seems to perform better on home soil! Another Joburger, Fisher hadn't the best of seasons in 2016 but he does tend to perform when back in his homeland so perhaps the 80/1 on offer reflects the recent European Tour form as opposed to his local form and I'm happy to take a chance on him here at a course where he has solid form.

Dylan Fritelli earned his Europeantour tour for the season through the Challenge Tour last year and the 26 year old features on my "10 To Follow in 2017" list. Another native of Johannesburg, the former team mate of Jordan Spieth and Cody Gribble at the University of Texas has shown plenty of promise by rising to number 150 in the world. With Gribble landing his first PGA Title last October, the South African is sure to be motivated for a good season ahead and he can use home advantage this week to get a solid start in much the same way as Brandon Stone did last year. 80/1 is generous this week and he is a must play for me here.

Eddie Pepperell is another on my "10 To Follow in 2017" list and he finds himself chalked up at best price 100/1. Eddie kicked off the season with another impressive post on his blog citing his willingness in 2017 to shut himself off from the social media ramblings and stay focused on what matters most to him.In shutting himself off from the distractions, it's hoped that his attention will switch to a good campaign on tour. Whatever it is that makes Eddie tick, we can't ignore his Q-School escapades to secure his card for the year when it looked like it wasn't going to be. New Years bring new challenges and new hopes and if he can get a decent start on Thursday he may just find some confidence to put in a good week. He's been close before and he can go close again...soon.

0.25 pts win T.Fisher Jnr @ 81.00
0.25 pts win D. Fritelli @ 101.00
0.25 pts win E. Pepperell @ 101.00

2.0 pts TOP10 D.Fritelli @ 7.00
2.0 pts TOP10 T.Fisher Jnr @ 6.50
1.75 pts TOP10 E.Pepperell @ 9.00